1808–1868

Introduction

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Born: June 4, 1808, Mount Hol­ly, New Jer­sey.

Died: Oc­to­ber 9, 1868, Phil­a­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia.

Buried: Mount Mo­ri­ah Ce­me­tery, Phil­a­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia.

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Biography

Thomas was the son of Will­iam Smith Stock­ton and Eliz­a­beth So­phia Hew­lings, and hus­band of An­na Roe Mc­Cur­dy (mar­ried Feb­ru­a­ry 1828).

Educated most­ly in pri­vate schools, he stu­died me­di­cine for a time, then spent five years in li­ter­a­ry pur­suits.

The Me­thod­ist Pro­test­ant de­nom­i­na­tion ad­mit­ted Stock­ton in­to the Ma­ry­land An­nu­al Con­ference, and he be­came one of the most el­o­quent preach­ers of 19th Cen­tu­ry America.

Stockton served as chap­lain for the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sent­a­tives three times. Dur­ing his last ten­ure (July 4, 1861 to De­cem­ber 7, 1863), he gave the op­en­ing pray­er at the de­di­ca­tion of the Sol­dier’s Na­tion­al Ce­me­te­ry in Get­tys­burg, Penn­syl­van­ia, No­vem­ber 19, 1863.

This was the oc­ca­sion when Pre­si­dent Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln gave his Get­tys­burg Ad­dress. Lincoln said he had ne­ver heard such an ut­ter­ance from mor­tal lips as Stockton’s pray­er at this de­di­ca­tion.

Works

Stockton com­piled the 1837 Me­thod­ist Pro­test­ant Hymn-Book, the first Me­thod­ist hym­nal to show hymn au­thors’ names.

In ad­di­tion to nu­mer­ous ser­mons and speech­es, his oth­er works in­clude:

Poem

Prayer at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Thursday, November 19th, 1863

O God our Fa­ther, for the sake of Thy Son our Sav­iour, in­spire us with Thy Spir­it, and sanc­ti­fy us to the right ful­fill­ment of the du­ties of this oc­ca­sion.

We come to de­di­cate this new his­tor­ic centre as a Na­tion­al Ce­me­te­ry. If all de­part­ments of the one Gov­ern­ment which Thou hast or­dained ov­er our Un­ion, and of the ma­ny Gov­ern­ments which Thou hast sub­or­din­at­ed to our Un­ion, be here rep­re­sent­ed; if all class­es, re­la­tions, and in­ter­ests of our blend­ed bro­ther­hood of peo­ple stand se­ver­al­ly and tho­rough­ly ap­par­ent in Thy pre­sence; we trust that it is be­cause Thou hast called us, that Thy bless­ing awaits us, and that Thy de­signs may be em­bo­died in prac­ti­cal re­sults of in­cal­cu­la­ble and im­per­ish­a­ble good.

And so, with Thy ho­ly Apos­tle, and with the Church of all lands and ages; we un­ite in the as­crip­tion: Bless­ed be God, ev­en the Fa­ther of our Lord Je­sus Christ, the Fa­ther of mer­cies, and the God of all com­fort, who com­fort­eth us in all our tri­bu­la­tion, that we may be able to com­fort them which are in any trou­ble, by the com­fort where­with we our­selves are com­fort­ed of God.

In em­u­la­tion of all an­gels, in fel­low­ship with all saints, and in sym­pa­thy with all suf­ferers; in rem­em­brance of Thy works, in re­ver­ence of Thy ways, and in ac­cord­ance with Thy word; we laud and mag­ni­fy Thine in­fi­nite per­fec­tions. Thy cre­at­ive glo­ry. Thy re­deem­ing grace, Thy pro­vi­den­tial good­ness, and the pro­gress­ive­ly rich­er and fair­er de­vel­op­ments of Thy su­preme, un­i­ver­sal, and ev­er­last­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In be­half of all hu­man­i­ty, whose ideal is di­vine, whose first me­mo­ry is Thine im­age lost, and whose last hope is Thine im­age re­stored; and es­pe­cial­ly of our own nat­ion, whose his­to­ry has been so fa­vored, whose po­si­tion is so peer­less, whose mis­sion is so sub­lime, and whose fu­ture is so at­tract­ive; we thank Thee for the un­speak­a­ble pa­tience of Thy com­pas­sion and the ex­ceed­ing great­ness of Thy lov­ing-kind­ness.

In con­tem­pla­tion of Ed­en, Cal­va­ry, and Hea­ven; of Christ in the Gar­den, on the Cross, and on the Throne; nay, more, of Christ as com­ing ag­ain in all-sub­du­ing pow­er and glo­ry; we grate­ful­ly pro­long our hom­age.

By this Al­tar of Sac­ri­fice, on this Field of De­liv­er­ance, on this Mount of Sal­va­tion, with­in the fie­ry and bloo­dy line of these mu­ni­tions of rocks, look­ing back to the dark days of fear and trem­bling, and to the rap­ture of re­lief that came af­ter; we mul­ti­ply our thanks­giv­ings, and con­fess our ob­li­ga­tions to re­new and per­fect our per­son­al and so­cial con­se­cra­tion to Thy ser­vice and glo­ry.

O, had it not been for God! For lo! our en­e­mies they came un­re­sist­ed, mul­ti­tu­di­nous, migh­ty, flushed with vic­to­ry, and sure of suc­cess. They ex­ult­ed on our moun­tains, they re­veled in our val­leys; they feast­ed, they rest­ed; they slept, they awaked; they grew strong­er, proud­er, bold­er ev­ery day; they spread abroad, they con­cen­trat­ed here; they looked be­yond this ho­ri­zon to the stores of wealth, to the haunts of plea­sure, and to the seats of pow­er, in our Ca­pi­tal and chief Ci­ties.

They pre­pared to cast the chain of Slav­e­ry around the form of Free­dom, bind­ing life and death to­ge­ther for­ev­er. Their pre­ma­ture tri­umph was the mock­e­ry of God and man. One more vic­to­ry, and all was theirs!

But, be­hind these hills was heard the feeb­ler march of a small­er but still pur­su­ing host. On­ward they hur­ried, day and night, for God and their coun­try. Foot-sore, way-worn, hun­gry, thirs­ty, faint but not in heart, they came to dare all, to bear all, and to do all, that is pos­si­ble to he­roes. And Thou didst sus­tain them!

At first they met the blast on the plain, and bent be­fore it, like the trees in a storm. But then, led by Thy hand to these hills, they took their stand upon the rooks and re­mained as firm and im­mov­a­ble as they.

In vain were they as­sault­ed. All art, all vi­o­lence, all des­per­a­tion, failed to dis­lodge them. Baf­fled, bruised, brok­en, their en­e­mies re­coiled, re­tired, and dis­ap­peared.

Glory to God, for this res­cue! But, O, the slain! In the fresh­ness and ful­ness of their young and man­ly life; with such sweet me­mo­ries of fa­ther and mo­ther, broth­er and sis­ter, wife and child­ren, maid­en and friends; they died for us.

From the coasts be­neath the East­ern star, from the shores of North­ern lakes and ri­vers, from the flow­ers of West­ern prair­ies, and from the homes of the Mid­way, and the Bor­der, they came here to die for us and for man­kind.

Alas, how lit­tle we can do for them! We come with the hu­mil­i­ty of pray­er, with the pa­the­tic el­o­quence of ven­er­a­ble wis­dom, with the ten­der beau­ty of po­et­ry, with the plain­tive har­mo­ny of mu­sic, with the hon­est trib­ute of our Chief Ma­gis­trate, and with all this hon­or­a­ble at­tend­ance: but our best hope is in Thy bless­ing, O, Lord, our God!

O, Fa­ther, bless us! Bless the be­reaved, whe­ther pre­sent, or ab­sent; bless our sick and wound­ed sol­diers and sail­ors; bless all our rul­ers and peo­ple; bless our ar­my and na­vy; bless the ef­forts for the sup­pres­sion of the re­bel­lion; and bless all the as­so­ci­a­tions of this day, and place, and scene, for­ev­er.

As the trees are not dead, though their fo­liage is gone, so our he­roes are not dead, though their forms have fall­en. In their pro­per per­son­al­i­ty, they are all with Thee. And the spir­it of their ex­am­ple is here. It fills the air, it fills our hearts.

And, long as time shall last, it will ho­ver in these skies, and rest on this land­scape; and the pil­grims of our own land, and from all lands, will thrill with its in­spir­a­tion and in­crease and con­firm their de­vo­tion to li­ber­ty, re­li­gion and God.

Our Fa­ther, who art in hea­ven, hal­lowed be Thy name. Thy king­dom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in hea­ven. Give us this day our dai­ly bread, and for­give us our debts, as we for­give our debtors. Lead us not into temp­ta­tion, but de­liv­er us from evil; for Thine is the king­dom, the pow­er, and the glory, for ev­er. Amen.

Thomas Hewlings Stockton (1808–1868)
Chaplain, Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sent­a­tives

Sources

Lyrics